Place Branding

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The human being is a social being by nature, and therefore, a communicative being; their individual survival depends, to a large extent, on their social relationships. A complex and structured relational level in social systems that allow you to know the reality of the world around you and your own. Some intra and interpersonal relationships that shape your personal and social universe, identify you and place you in your most immediate environment. “Men can only exist in society and society” (Castoriadis, 2006: 75).

The relational activity of the human being has been motivated, from its origins, by social, political and commercial relations. In this sense, the brand has served since its inception as the strategy of differentiation of products, services or people, reaching today, in a technological and transmedia context, a relational communicative status based on emotion and experience.

The conceptual and functional development of the brand has gone hand in hand with the social and technological advances of society, from the initial identity and trademark profile represented by a product or manufacturer to acquiring the value of a symbol with a life of its own that is nourished by the perceptions of consumers and has a superior meaning to the product or service that identifies, is therefore a symbolic-connotative entity with experiential and relational value. The brand currently takes center stage in markets and is configured, in many cases, as the only business strategy of business organizations. For the company, the brand represents a strategic asset of great economic value, a profitable intangible that is managed as a business system. For the consumer, it means a form of personal expression that covers their sociological and psychological needs.

A social and economic paradigm based on “brand value”, an intangible and strategic concept that assumes all the relational protagonism. A consumer that needs and demands a constant and dynamic dialogue with the purpose of establishing an empathic and experiential communication in a participative and collaborative context. And a brand that communicates through experiences and conversations with consumers, thus defining a frame of reference to establish an almost human communication.
It is interesting to highlight the brand definition that Marty Neumeier makes in his book The Brand Gap, the author breaks in this book with all the preconceived ideas of the brand:
“The brand is not a logo.
A brand is not an identity.
A brand is not a product.
A brand is not what you say it is.
A brand is what they say it is ”

Brands play a fundamentally social role and become a psychological agent that directly impacts the consumer and their actions, making the emotional component their main asset; an asset that is defined by the set of individual opinions of its audiences. The need to reflect on the brand and its values help to have a group conscience and make the brand an essential part of social interaction. The shared and socially expressed brand becomes a link between the members of the social group and constitutes a collective image and identity.

The most emotional and aspirational brand provokes attitudes beyond the real needs that cover the products and seeks response of loyalty and preference in the consumer. In a consumer society with the majority of the population with the most basic needs covered, the brand needs to project more emotional stadiums, it is an aspirational bubble where the consumer projects their needs and desires. In the words of Marc Gobé (2005): “… a brand captures consumers at the level of the senses and emotions”.

In a global consumer society, the territories have become products. A global and unified context of markets and cultures where countries, cities and regions need to acquire a strong identity to differentiate themselves with the objective of establishing themselves in the market and being competitive, also need, in their international relations, to position themselves competitively in order to obtain a reputation that allow them to acquire an image and a political and economic credibility in front of other territories. As Iglesias and Molina (2008) point out, “globalization and the media revolution have made each State more aware of itself, of its image, of its reputation, or what is the same, of its brand”. In this social and economic context, branding and branding play a fundamental role.

Bliechfeldt believes that the territorial mark cannot exist because the territory contains a high intangibility, the truth is that in practice it has been proven that a territory can be considered a brand, if we consider the notion of the current commercial brand, the brand It does not represent a tangible, it moves in intangible terms such as perceptions and feelings to build user experiences. With this comparison between commercial brand and territorial brand, we can affirm that both territorial brand and commercial brand build their communicative strategy based on intangible aspects and also on their relationship with the public to position themselves in the market and be competitive in the short term. the case of commercial brands – or in the long term – in the case of territorial brands. As De San Eugenio Vela (2012) points out, the territory brand has become an element with a high strategic value of differentiation. Territories can be understood as brands since they provoke perceptions and associations in their public and have very similar behavior to commercial brands in terms of strategy, brand territory and communication with their publics. Peter Van Ham (2001) is positioned in this line when he points out that no country or state can survive if it does not create a brand that supports its positioning; the place of origin is necessary for the internationalization of cultural, business and citizen currents; it is, in short, a competitive advantage in economic, political and social terms.

Anholt (2007) points out that the territorial mark has the main objective of incorporating countries, cities or nations into a competitive global framework, where the values of a differentiated and positive image are fundamental to be visible in a context saturated with territories. that seek to obtain more human and economic resources and a prominent political position. It is from the image of a territory (perception of the public) that audiences make decisions about residence, investment or tourism.

Thus, we can see three fundamental objectives in the territorial brand, the tourist destination, economic investment, and public diplomacy; Although each of these aspects has specific objectives, a discourse and a map of different publics, they are all part of the global identity of a territory. The territorial brand in the key of present and future is a long-term asset to take into account for the territories that want or need to attract investments, talent, and infrastructures, companies and events. The holistic vision that the authors exposed in this work have of the territorial mark is clear, as in the case of the hexagon of the image of the country-brand of Anholt (2004) where it exposes the six dimensions of the territorial mark and includes in it the aspects: tourism, export, politics, culture, investment, and immigration or people. Other authors such as Brujó (2008) that includes four elements that should influence the territorial brand: human/social, economic, historical and political. Peralba (2010) also focuses on a global brand vision and establishes four brand builders: public, social, economic, business and cultural.

In practice, we see how the promoters of the territorial brand, in most cases public administrations, prevails to a large extent the idea of the territorial brand as destination brand; a brand built and implemented under the strategic vision of marketing and advertising.

In the line of the authors Simon Anholt, Brujo and Peralba, we understand that the territorial mark, by its complexity, must be conceived and constructed from a holistic and transversal vision; the brand must play a leading role in territorial management, taking into account that territorial and social identity is the key element for its positioning, it must be a proposal for an image, but also a proposal for territorial development, political management and internal cohesion. It is necessary to endow the territorial mark with the multidimensional reality of the territory it represents and not fall into a reductionist vision, which capitalized by the tourism brand, presents a perspective that can blur the authenticity and richness of the territory and, therefore, the Creation of a fictitious and superficial brand. Immersed in an economy and a culture dominated by image and symbolism, territories -thought as a product- build, in most cases, fictitious imaginaries in favor of competitiveness, leaving aside the identity that distinguishes them.

We understand the concept of “identity”, in a globalized cultural and economic context, as the key that allows, today, the survival and uniqueness of territories; the exaltation of identity and its most intrinsic features are, in the territorial mark, a valorization of a territory and its society. Bozzanno (2000) defines territorial identity as the geographical space where natural physical processes are developed and where social processes unfold, a scenario of complex articulations between society and nature.

Identity is made up of two elements, society and territory. The society acquires meaning from the interactivity of the subjects that inhabit a territory, it is a communication that conditions and produces culture and its own symbolism and acquires as a collectivity a nucleus of meanings (personal experiences and emotional links). The territory is constituted, first, as the referential framework of social interactivity and, second, as part of social communication through the appropriation of physical space by its inhabitants. A symbiotic and miscegenation relationship between the physical space and its inhabitants that is configured as a system of meaning with its own autonomy and shape the social and cultural reality, that is, the identity of a territory. As Camprubí (2009) mentions, territorial identity is a set of elements and attributes that distinguish the society that inhabits it, such as history, traditions and culture, taking into account that identity is forged from certain social processes.

A territorial identity that is configured from the sum of the individual identities; From a sociological perspective, without a single identity, there can not be a collective identity. A social and collective identity that is constituted under a feeling of social belonging represented by symbolic and cultural registers. Durkheim defined the collective identity as the socio-cognitive constructions of common sense understood as the set of information, beliefs, opinions and attitudes that are shared and create a common reality, collective imaginaries. A form of socially shared knowledge that elaborates a common reality in a social setting, is a frame of reference for interpreting and perceiving reality and forms of thought and collective behavior, social identity.

The collective imaginaries are in the words of Max Weber, a channel and a communicative code accepted and understood between the subjects and society. Communication is based on symbols and signs that represent emotional and collective consciousness states homogenized and stereotyped and give a sense of social belonging. Thus, the imaginaries configure the sense of a collective identity shared by a society that inhabits a specific physical space and implies a self-representation of itself, it is also, consciously or unconsciously, the identity that projects the society and the territory.

Is Cornelius Castoriadis (1975) who gives the collective imaginary the characteristic of movement and evolution and situates it in the historical and social plane: “the human being modifies and creates his environment to cover both individual and social needs in the process of life and these modifications are intimately linked to a certain time and culture. ” Collective imaginaries are characterized by their evolution, they are modified, they are created and they disappear according to the needs of the determined historical, economic or political moment and new meanings appear that allow building new realities, that is, they are endowed with social and relational tools and, for both communicative, that from a socio-historical perspective allow creating new thoughts, needs and opinions common to the whole community. They are new orders and social thoughts. New collective meanings promoted by the institution that regulates public perceptions and opinions and imposes a collective social thought. The Church, the army, the family and the media, etc. they are the instituting institutions that are in permanent conflict with instituted institutions, religion, justice, capitalism, etc. Both institutions allow the construction of collective imaginaries based on imagination, a concept understood as symbolic narrations, a relational and communicative process that allows the creation of social productions with their own meaning, although not rational or objective.

It is, in short, a symbolic thought that makes social life possible and necessary, a common language among all individuals prior to historical knowledge. A sense represented by plural and contextualized system of signs and symbols in a specific social and cultural geographical space where reality is configured.
But the only way to understand the process of construction of collective imaginaries is through semiotics, this discipline takes us into the structures and processes of the formation and understanding of discourses, social interactions and the narrative actions of the subjects that from symbols accepted collectively contribute to give a social meaning.

The semiologist Barthes, in the line of Castoriadis, positions the construction of social reality under a symbolic structure and in a socio-historical context, the author calls the sign-symbol as symbolic-cultural, that is, the discourse of reality is specified insofar as it is subject to cultural and social learning. It is in essence, the narrative of discourse that builds a system of interpretation and understanding of the world and has the ability to give an ordered meaning, this narrative modeling the cognition of the subjects and, therefore, configures the rationality. The social reality from the narrative is a reality represented and directed through the discourse of the individual and collective symbolic universes that provide order in a frame of social reference and limits the way of thinking and acting of the subjects.

To make sense of the territorial brand conceived and implemented from the perspective of reality and social identity, we must take into account the subjects that comprise it, which are, in short, the subjects that, through discursive narratives, construct meanings with a rational sense and, Therefore, its reality. We speak of an inclusive territorial brand in social terms; the inclusive concept alludes, first, to the active participation of the internal publics in the construction and strategy of the brand (co-branding) and, second, to the alignment of the brand message with the social reality; the social reality of the internal audiences that the brand represents. Thus, the territorial brand should mainly address two objectives in relation to the residents of the territory, the brand positioning based on social reality and the promotion of the sense of social identity.

Failure to address the territorial brand strategy to internal audiences can lead, as Alonso and Conde (2002) allude, to a situation of rupture of social cohesion and a loss of references, in any case, to an indifference of brand discourse on the part of the residents, which would lead to the construction of a parallel discourse that could negatively affect the value of the brand and, therefore, the loss of coherence and credibility.

Thus, the brand should never lose the sociological reference that the legitimate, in the line of Nora Gaio (2010) the brand should be a social and integrating element that is able to integrate interests and behaviors, that is, promote social cohesion to build a strong and real brand. But this cohesion is only achieved with the integration of internal audiences in all brand creation processes.
The importance of the internal public in the territorial brand, as an integral part of the brand identity, is justified by its complexity and diversity, taking into account that it is about different realities with different objectives and interests with the brand. It is important to give each internal public – public administrations, business network and civil society – an important role in brand building. All the authors exposed in the work emphasize the need to classify the internal audiences by their degree of involvement and representativeness, first in the territorial identity and, second, by the role they play with respect to the brand. In general, we will consider internal audiences as an integral part of the brand’s discursive strategy and, also, as brand generators, that is, they adopt the roles of builders, recipients of their own brand and broadcasters.
The Public Administrations are in most cases the promoters of the territorial mark, as Castoriadis alludes, the Administrations as an institution, allow social coexistence and its evolution based on norms, values and conceptions of reality that give meaning to the society and, therefore, build a social reality. It is this institution, for its public function, that should exercise the integrating function of the different realities and interests in co-led management among all internal publics. They act as public promoters and brand diffusers, but at the same time, the brand and its promotion, as a public and social initiative, reverts to its own identity and image.

The business fabric is a brand builder for its commercial and political interests. Companies with their tangible and intangible values: products, services and brands are part of the strengths or weaknesses of the territorial brand and are a fundamental part of the different perceptions that both the internal and external publics have at the cultural, economic and political of the territory; the value of the brand. The interest and involvement of the business fabric by the territorial brand is determined by the degree of economic benefits or intangible value that they can offer their products or trademarks. They are brand receptors because of the impact that the territorial brand has on the value of their products, such as the brand made in or made by.

Civil society is characterized by its heterogeneity and acquires the role of builder because of its high involvement with brand values and attributes and its social and territorial experience. They are receptors because the brand represents their identity and affects their self-perception. Getting the territorial brand fully integrates the social identity of the territory will lead to a commitment and long-term satisfaction. The social consensus created by the brand will turn civil society into the main brand ambassador.

The difficulty of integrating all internal audiences in brand building is evident, a participative and inclusive construction of the brand offers, as a result, a more legitimate, real and effective brand in its purposes. They are the internal publics and their social reality, determined by the collective imaginaries, those that give a story to the brand. The construction of the brand must be inclusive and must be based on the values of the internal society and the tangible and intangible attributes of the territory. It is the society of a territory that gives authenticity, coherence and credibility to the brand, in short, they give it the differentiating identity necessary to compete in the markets.

Only if the implementation of a territorial brand built from the social perspective has the capacity to produce a response from the internal audiences, will it be able to modify the collective imaginaries -in the long term- as a consequence of the appearance of new symbolic narratives that elaborated by the instituting institutions as the means of communication and social interaction of the internal public, they will be assimilated into society and, therefore, will create new values and attitudes, a new understanding of reality.

Social identity is constructed through collective imaginaries; The values, attitudes and behaviors of a community are forged throughout its history and individual and collective experiences. As a concept, the imaginary is a social structure in constant evolution and is part of the social and cultural heritage of a territory. They are collective imaginaries, understood as identity values, which give meaning to construction and brand discourse. The territorial mark, as a reflection of a specific society and territory, will be conditioned, in the long term, by the new imaginaries created by social evolution and the permanent creation of meaning.

We understand the concept of brand as a living entity and in constant evolution. An evolution conditioned by the interaction it has with its public and that, based on the dialogues, conversations and experiences, allows the brand to adapt to the demands and needs of its publics. The brand lives in a new technological and communicative context, a scenario in permanent brand co-creation. The result of the territorial brand thought from the social identity will create in its internal audiences a behavior of self-recognition, a space of social cohesion and a brand ally, we refer to the imaginary effective or instituted, the set of meanings that consolidate what is already established (traditions, customs and social and historical memory).

If we propose the territorial brand as an identity system with the sole purpose of influencing the perceptions of external audiences, such as the tourism brand, a rupture can be produced between the social identity and the brand and as a consequence an attitude of indifference and confrontation that can cause, as in the case of the Barcelona brand exposed in the annexes, new social discourses. This mark according to Assumpció Huertas (2011) must be based on the real attributes of the territory, but it should not necessarily focus solely on its identity understood from a cultural, historical or political point of view. Moreover, sometimes the brand can communicate characteristics created or fostered in the place although they are not so original or ancestral.

In this scenario, the brand is not aligned with the territorial identity, a false identity is created in order to make a territory attractive. The brand represents and identifies a product and its discursive and positioning strategy is centered on fictitious values. If the territorial mark is not built from the social reality of the territory, the identity that is projected is not aligned with the image that external audiences will perceive. Creating an incoherence that will hinder the message and offer a non-real brand promise that will not meet the experiential expectations of external audiences.

A situation that could provoke new symbolic narratives, new social imaginaries; first, by the relationship established between external audiences in contact with the brand, the brand experience and the reality of the territory; second, because of the impact that this brand positioning would have on internal audiences when generating new internal perceptions that, based on cultural miscegenation (internal audiences – external audiences), would create new social discourses based on stereotypes and false realities that could affect the internal society , we refer to the radical or instituting social imaginary that creates new universes of meaning (new ways of seeing and thinking about reality). It is a communicative process that flows from outside to inside, based on external perceptions and images and internal reality and has the capacity to create new meanings and cultural symbols.

The construction of the territorial mark from the perspective of the social reality of a territory, its values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, allows access to a new scenario, theoretical and practical territorial brand, far removed from the usual practice that many times It is in conflict with the internal audiences for not attending to the identity values of a society that is, ultimately, those that contribute the differential and identity value of a territory.

Extract of the conclusions of the research work of the Master’s Degree in New Trends and Processes of Innovation in Communication. Universitat Jaume I, Castellón, Spain (2017).